On June 24-25, families representing children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. took to Capitol Hill with a unified mission — to raise awareness, among members of Congress, of the important issues impacting children’s hospitals and pediatric health care today. It was all part of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, an annual initiative of the Children’s Hospital Association. We’re proud that two of those families, the Wittrock family of Burnsville, Minn. and the Harbarth family of Mankato, Minn., represented Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
The Wittrocks and Harbarths know firsthand the many issues that families of medically complex children often face. Brandon Wittrock, 17, and Madison Harbarth, 7, are longtime patients of Gillette, a St. Paul-based hospital with outpatient sites throughout the state. This made them ideal families to meet one-on-one with the state’s legislators, sharing their personal stories and stressing the important role Gillette plays as one of the nation’s only specialty care pediatric hospitals.
“Brandon was a million dollar baby by the time he was three days old,” Sheri Wittrock told members of Congress, referring to the cost of care when her son, Brandon, was born. “Without Gillette, he wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you today.”
During their time in Washington D.C., the Wittrocks and Harbarths, along with Gillette representatives, received a warm reception from Senator Al Franken, Rep. Betty McCollum, and staff members from Senator Klobuchar and Rep. Tim Walz’s offices.
They also had the opportunity to meet a national celebrity—Dr. Jennifer Arnold, a pediatric neonatologist and co-star of TLC’s The Little Couple, who participated in Family Advocacy Day with her husband and two children (Madison Harbarth is pictured with Dr. Arnold and her daughter, Zoey).
Many thanks to our Minnesota representatives, Children’s Hospital Association staff, and our amazing patient families for a memorable and productive time in our nation’s capitol!